Technology Trends Driving Changes in the Financial Services Workplace

Financial Services Companies are addressing employee preferences for workplace functionality and flexibility. Technology is enabling employers to consider different workplace options to satisfy the functional and operational requirements associated with collaboration, presence, and mobility within their workplace while continuing to provide data security.

In today’s business environment, more financial services companies are seeking ways to leverage technology to gain a competitive advantage and cater to the needs of a mobile workforce and mobile customer while mitigating security threats and breaches.  In order to do this, financial services companies are relying more and more on the ability to optimize their IT Operations, enhance their IT Portfolio, and leverage costs (capital and operating) to gain market share. If information technologies are deployed properly, they will make organizations more efficient and effective.  ESD has identified the technology trends that are currently driving the need for IT departments of financial firms to think outside the box (while still complying with federal regulations for securing data) and empower their workforce through flexible spaces.

Networks
The use of wireless, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), Power over Ethernet, and converged networks are rapidly becoming widely adopted throughout the workplace.  The integration of voice, data, and video into one single network, the converged network, is transforming IT infrastructure. Converged networks drive many advantages to users to promote flexibility within the workplace.  Email and voicemail are unified into a single messaging inbox instead of having to access multiple systems.  Calls can be forwarded or automatically routed from their desk phone to their cell phone through fixed/mobile convergence.  Presence becomes more advanced with the ability to look at an individual’s schedule, know their availability, or where they currently are.  Products such as Microsoft Lync and Cisco Unified Communicator contribute to the ability to enhance presence within the workplace.

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure

The types of devices that are being used for personal computing are changing dramatically in the financial services workplace.  Traditionally, a desktop computer or laptop computer would be located at each workstation.  While this works well for consumers, this does not scale well in the workplace.  A shift towards virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) allows organizations to greatly reduce the power and cooling required at the workstation by deploying thin clients that draw between 5-15 Watts each to replace traditional desktop computers that draw between 100-150 Watts.  By using virtual desktops hosted in a centralized server room, this creates a very flexible computing infrastructure that can expand or contract computing and memory resources as needed for individual tasks instantaneously.  Since the computing infrastructure is centralized, it provides for centralized management by IT personnel and built-in resiliency to eliminate downtime for individual users.

BYOD

Mobile devices continue to become more prominent in the workplace today and are having a large impact on efficiency, productivity, and customer service.  By 2015, the mobile worker population will reach 1.3 billion, which represents 37% of the total workforce, according to a report released in January 2012 by International Data Corporation.  Mobile technology and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) strategies continue to create many advantages to organizations, especially the financial services sector.  The ability for a financial advisor or broker to use a tablet or iPad to gain instant and up to date information about a client’s portfolio increases productivity, collaboration, and customer engagement. 

Mobile technology, however, poses many challenges for financial services companies due to strict regulatory requirements for securing financial transactions and data, as well as management of devices.  Some of these same regulations apply to retailers and many other companies who store the personal data of individuals. Best practices associated with BYOD are establishing a firm wide BYOD Policy;  deploying a Mobile Device Management software for encryption, authentication, document sharing, and the ability to wipe the device; limiting the number of types of devices approved for BYOD; and establishing a security management and control platform.

Technology will continue to evolve and change the financial services workspace. With this evolution, IT Managers and IT Executives must stay connected to current trends and advances in technology to increase productivity, enhance a mobile workforce, and reduce costs while mitigating potential security risks and threats.

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